(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Dozens of Honorary Consuls, representing scores of countries from across the globe, participated on Friday, June 25, 2010, in a festive ceremony held at the Honorary Consul Grove at Aminadav Forest. This olive trees grove was formally dedicated a few weeks ago but the current, informal event took place in order to facilitate the participation of Honorary Consuls who could not attend the formal Dedication Ceremony and plant a tree in the name of the respective country which they represent. Ninety Eight different countries are represented in the Grove, each signified by an olive tree next to which is that country's national emblem.
These Honorary Consuls are Israeli citizens who were awarded this diplomatic title by their respective country as a special gesture and an expression of these countries' aspiration to cultivate further their relationship with Israel. Some represent small countries which have no diplomatic delegations based in Israel while others hold the title in parallel to the official embassy. Nowadays, there are 165 Honorary Consuls in Israel.
Attorney Amichai Orkabi, Honorary Consul for Korea and Mongolia, initiated the planting of the grove together with Rani Rahav, Honorary Consul for the Marshall Islands. "The planting of trees in recognition of the Honorary Consuls is a singular endeavor anywhere in the world which aims to pay respect to Honorary Consuls", said Orkabi during the ceremony. "The planting of a tree is the most characteristic Israeli manner of expressing such appreciation. Our aspiration is to bring school children to the grove and through their work in the forest here learn about the different countries".
Yitzhak Eldan, Chief of Protocol at the Foreign Ministry, said "Honorary Consuls constitute an important bridge between Israel and the countries that appointed them. Thanks to the special relationship with KKL-JNF, it became possible to plant a grove in their honor. This Grove ensures that the link between the Honorary Consuls and KKL-JNF will persist".
Attorney Gad Naschitz, Dean of the Consular Corps, added "When we look around at the magnificent forest, one recognizes immediately the importance of KKL-JNF's work. It is not a coincidence that we are in the Jerusalem environs. Each of us represents a different country but we are all Israelis and stand behind our capital. In a few years, we will come here and pick olives from the trees that we planted".
Nathan Disenhouse, the new JNF Toronto President, participated in the event and said, "I am honored to be here. This is my very first event in Israel in my new position. The Jews of Toronto are closely linked to Israel. We recently inaugurated a bike trail from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is important for us to educate Canadian Jews to become acquainted with KKL-JNF's diversified activities and encourage them to become involved".
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Disenhouse noted that his prime goals as JNF Toronto President are, "Highlighting KKL-JNF's various activities beyond afforestation and water resource development; advancing joint projects with Israeli organizations and promoting the training program for young and adult Canadians so as to heighten awareness among the younger generation regarding KKL-JNF's central role".
Following the unveiling of the recognition sign, the Honorary Consuls paid a personal visit to the trees they planted in the name of their countries. They were delighted to learn that the olive trees are watered by way of an underground irrigation system in order to prevent damage to the pipes by animals. At the same time, KKL-JNF found a solution for the thirsty animals in the form of a trough in the nearby grove.
We spoke with some of the Honorary Consuls after their tree planting experience in this special grove:David Ben Basat
, Honorary Consul for Nauro (an island state in the South Pacific): "I represent a tiny country that is a great friend of Israel. Nauru has been voting consistently in favor of Israel in the UN despite the fact that Arab countries have attempted repeatedly to buy its support with money. Israel lends assistance to Nauru in the fields of medicine, water desalination and alternative energy. Nauru has no embassy in Israel and I represent the country at the Foreign Ministry".Michael Dresner
, Honorary Consul for Panama said, "Panama is a good friend of Israel and it is a wonderful idea to emphasize the link between the countries by way of planting an olive tree".David Kasti'el
, Honorary Consul for Sweden said, "It is a wonderful feeling to plant an olive tree in Jerusalem. In Sweden, no olive trees can grow so at least here, Sweden has its own olive tree. One day, my grandchildren and great grandchildren will come to view the tree that I planted".Abraham Maman
, Honorary Consul for Uruguay said, "I am deeply honored to serve as the representative of the country where I was born. Some 14,000 olim from Uruguay live in Israel today".Jacob and Carmela Weiss
, Honorary Consuls for Papua New Guinea said, "I worked in Papua New Guinea in the past on behalf of the International Monetary Fund. My wife and I have become closely attached to that country. When they offered us to be Honorary Consuls, we recognized the opportunity to bring both worlds together. My aspiration is to help in the realm of agriculture and I am most interested in initiating joint projects with KKL-JNF".Moni Bar
, Honorary Consul for Bulgaria said, "The strong bond between
Jews and Bulgaria has its roots already in the Second World War when
the Bulgarian People and their king saved the Jews of their country
from deportation to the extermination camps. I came to Israel as a boy
in 1948 and am truly honored to represent Bulgaria".
At the end of the ceremony and the tree planting, the Honorary Consuls
gathered for a barbeque on the magnificent backdrop of the Jerusalem
Aminadav Forest was planted by KKL-JNF and covers an area of 7000
dunams (700 hectares; 1750 acres) west of Jerusalem, along the Sorek
Range. The Forest includes many rest corners and recreation areas with
play and exercise equipment which have been established thanks to the
help of KKL-JNF friends across the world. Close by towers the J.F.
Kennedy Memorial. The Forest regularly teems with people and is an
attraction for tourists and excursionists from all over Israel, among
them school children who come to wonder in the forest, bikers who ride
the trails and families that recreate in nature on weekends and
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